New to me 79 1500

Discussion in 'Workshop Forum' started by ricar, Jul 24, 2019.

  1. ricar

    ricar Daily Driver

    Location:
    Waterdown Ont.
    I'm sure threads like this have been posted a thousand times but....

    I just picked up a 79 that has been worked. I had a 78 in the family YEARS ago and I did own a 78 again years ago but it had issues and I was young and off it went.

    Now this is the first 1500 I have dealt with and now that I have it home, the tranny is leaking pretty bad. It does sound nice, no valve noise and surprisingly rust free. I think it sat a lot, but it does pop out or reverse readily.

    So, my question is, do I pull the thing apart this winter and rebuild the tranny and while I'm in there lighten the fly wheel throw on a header and hope for the best or save the money and go for a K20? I would not wreck the 1500, I'd throw a blanket over it and one day tinker away at it.

    I have rebuilt transmissions before but not an X, so I'm wondering if it's worth while. What are the chances there is irreparable damage ? That is my main concern. Digging in and finding it pooched.

    My original plan was just driving it the rest of the year until I have to tow it home and over the winter try to do the K20 but that Fiat sound is sooooo tempting.

    Also the DPO has swapped the carb but he spoke a different language and it was really hard to get things straight. I'll post a pic when I can get one and maybe send a donut to the first to get it right!
     
  2. kmead

    kmead Old enough to know better

    Location:
    Michigan
    If the transmission is working normally aside from popping out of reverse, it can be repaired relatively cheaply. The shaft for reverse gets bent and to replace it is is relatively simple, finding one is becoming the trick.

    There are a couple of threads one can find that cover the rebuild. You can find Bernice’s threads in the Best of Xweb (BOX) under Transmission. Here is a direct link: https://xwebforums.com/forum/index.php?tags/box-transmission/

    I would repair the transmission, do some other upgrades as you have delineated and enjoy the car. While you are enjoying the car you can decide whether or not you want to do a swap. This ensures you don’t end up with a car in pieces in your garage (I have one of those, it sucks), have a fun car to drive for years and if you do decide to go down the path of swapping you can start collecting the parts.

    Engine swaps are a deep hole where many good cars go to die, don’t start one without fully understanding what it means to do so on this particular car as it is a real project. Have a look at Hussien’s existing thread, Roger’s thread and others can also to be found in the BOX thread at the top of the Workshop Forum.
     
    speedy fiat and autox19 like this.
  3. Chris in Canada

    Chris in Canada True Classic

    Location:
    Ontario, canada
    I was ready to pull my tranny for leaks thinking I had to disassemble it to replace the seals. My Romanian coworker(euro mechanic!) informed me that i just had to pop out the hubs. Couple hours later, new seals no leaks, still driving to work everyday!! She does pop out of reverse the odd time but it doesn’t bother me nor warrant pulling the tranny. And yes, I think we all have considered the k20 swap, but that still doesn’t guarantee no down time! Maybe more so as I don’t beat my x ‘cuz it isn’t as quick as it would be with the k20!!!
     
  4. Dr.Jeff

    Dr.Jeff True Classic

    Location:
    Sin City
    I think the consideration to do a engine swap (be it a K or B Honda, or other) or not should be decided completely independent of all other issues. It is a major decision and much more needs to be considered way beyond a trans leak or reverse problem. Make that fundamental decision first, then consider your options.
     
    autox19 likes this.
  5. Popping out of reverse is a common problem. The reverse idler shaft may, or may not, be bent. They frequently are and are getting harder to find these days. Regardless, that is fixable. You will likely need a reverse idler gear and a 1-2 sliding sleeve. And I have never seen a 5 speed that was popping out of reverse that didn't also need a 3rd gear synchro.

    A transmission that is in mostly reasonable working order is never "unfixable". It just depends on how much you want to spend on parts. The closest thing to unfixable would be a cracked case from the idler shaft being bent. You could buy a replacement case but they are getting hard to find now.
     
  6. ricar

    ricar Daily Driver

    Location:
    Waterdown Ont.

    Thank you!
     
  7. ricar

    ricar Daily Driver

    Location:
    Waterdown Ont.

    The decision is not being made on the imperfect engine/trans it is being made on the out dated under powered lump vs. one that can do 130Kph on a highway for 3 hours without issue. My point is, do I spend money on the Fiat lump, will the 1500 5 speed do what I want or, just put the money towards the swap.
     
  8. EricH

    EricH Eric Hamilton Moderator

    Location:
    Durham NC, USA
    A well-sorted and maintained 1500 will do that just fine.
     
    kmead likes this.
  9. Dr.Jeff

    Dr.Jeff True Classic

    Location:
    Sin City
    I see what you mean. It might depend on how far you want to "improve" the Fiat engine and trans. Consider the cost to rebuild the transmission properly. Same for the engine. Add the cost of upgrades necessary for desired performance goals. How does that total compare to a swap. I'm sure the swap will end up being more expensive, but you will be getting a lot more. So the question then becomes, is it worth the extra cost to get more? Perhaps to put it differently, you cannot make the Fiat engine and trans equal to the modern swap for any amount of money. So what are your real expectations, decent vintage driver or modern performance car?
     
  10. Jefco

    Jefco Daily Driver

    Location:
    Portland OR
    If this were my regular drive, I'd be driving something else, more cruise friendly. And I LOVE my X.
     
    Dr.Jeff likes this.
  11. kmead

    kmead Old enough to know better

    Location:
    Michigan
    We all have different levels of tolerance. For me,compared to my OE 1992 Miata, the X is a relaxed freeway cruiser.

    The 1500 is more than up to the job of running down the road for long distances. I have driven my X over 800 miles in one day with ease and no issues. A stock X exhaust system is not loud nor particularly intrusive.
     
  12. ricar

    ricar Daily Driver

    Location:
    Waterdown Ont.
    So I finally got to drive the X more than around the block... The poor thing needs help. I can't tell if the headlights are actually on, the signals flash every 5 seconds or so and it's bleeding from the trans but I'm not sure about the engine. The trans seal probably went bad from sitting and the electric issues seem to be the generic X issues that I was fully prepared for... and the radio neither fits the dash nor actually works. I can't wait to get greasy with this thing!

    It has a broken speedo cable but the radar sign had me at just over 80Kph at 3,000 rpm. I know this is a rev happy engine but what rpm will this engine maintain for long distance?
     
  13. lookforjoe

    lookforjoe True Classic

    I drive mine at 65-85mph in 4th and 5th for several hours straight when I go to my main annual car show. So, it ticks over comfortably in the 3-4k rpm range. That's kinda like off-idle rpm for this motor :D
     
    AKimball92 likes this.
  14. EricH

    EricH Eric Hamilton Moderator

    Location:
    Durham NC, USA
    Change your timing belt, set the valve clearances, it will run more or less forever.
     
    kmead likes this.
  15. Pete Whitstone

    Pete Whitstone True Classic

    Location:
    McKinney, TX
    I don't see that you have much to lose. If you are going K20 then the trans has to come out. If you are going to keep it Fiat, then the trans has to come out. So the only amount of "digging in" I see is that you crack open the trans and have a look. I'd be doing that before I make the decision.

    Pete
     
    autox19 likes this.
  16. EricH

    EricH Eric Hamilton Moderator

    Location:
    Durham NC, USA
    The engine swap is some serious time and money, and will change the personality of the car a fair amount. There's a lot to be said for getting the car properly sorted and happily drivable, seeing what you like and don't like about it the way it is, and then deciding what to change.

    No matter what you do with the powertrain, you'll want to go over the suspension and tires so that the car drives the way it's supposed to. And once you've done that, you may find that you like the Fiat powertrain more than you expected - it's a fairly well-balanced package straight from the factory and just bringing it up to stock European specs is a big improvement without changing the personality of the car.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2019
    kmead likes this.
  17. Chris in Canada

    Chris in Canada True Classic

    Location:
    Ontario, canada
    I use my x as my daily driver, 90km’s/day mostly hwy (summers only!!) engine and trans history unknown(donor car was an ‘81 with a cheese and please body job and 96 000km’s) All i did was a tune up and valve shim adjustment. She purrs along at around 3500/4000 rpm with the odd 5000”gentle” shift. Oil stays clean and I might add a litre between changes. Little smoke on start up if she sits a few days(rain delay!!!) ALL my part suppliers and just about everyone gives me condolences when I say Fiat!! She has never left me stranded! My maiden voyage after 10 years of mechanical restoration was a 200 plus km drive with the roof off, and nothing but a permanent grin on my face and multiple thumbs up from passers by! The only thing is we ALL would like more power!!! If it didn’t sound and run so well, she would already have the k20 installed! I also found that most repairs were painless other than the master cylinders! Get her running good and then decide or buy a second one, one stock and one modified!!
     
    kmead likes this.
  18. kmead

    kmead Old enough to know better

    Location:
    Michigan
    I would echo this, with the difference being that my car tends to be shifted at 5k with at least one daily foray into the 6500rpm zone. It is actually a lovely engine for what it can do.
     
    nichol01 likes this.
  19. ricar

    ricar Daily Driver

    Location:
    Waterdown Ont.
    I have more than once thought about two cars, just swap plates!

    The digging in to the trans to me, was more about sourcing parts. A friend of mine had his tranny rebuilt 3 times before they realized it was twisted and rebuilding it was a waste. Even then, it's more about time. Either start looking for a donor and not waste time with the original trans or, put the time into a fairly easy trans rebuild and put the swap on the back burner.
     
  20. ricar

    ricar Daily Driver

    Location:
    Waterdown Ont.
    How is the MC carb option? I happen to have a set of CBR600 carbs.... Is it worth doing without head work? I know the stock valves are restrictive sooo.......
     

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